Millions of UK holidaymakers have been approached by claim management companies to make false sickness claims, according to a new poll by the Association of British Travel Agents.

19% of respondents said they had been contacted by such firms upon their return home, with the prospect of cash sums if they made a claim.

The average payout is in excess of £2,000.

Results from the poll suggest nine million Britons have been encouraged to make sickness claims.

Last year the UK government unveiled a strategy to discourage such activities, but ABTA says it wants any new legislation to be in force by the summer holidays.

The new rules are being introduced as fast as possible, according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The travel industry spent more than £240m fighting claims in 2016, costs which have ultimately been passed on to holidaymakers in the form of more costly breaks.

Reports of sicknesses in hotels have increased five-fold since 2013, although the establishments involved say the average number of cases has not changed.

With a fall in the number of PPI claims nationwide, it has been suggested that claims specialists are seeking new areas of business to exploit, particularly as regards falling ill when on holiday.

The rise in claims appears only to relate to British holidaymakers.

The fact that a custodial sentence could await those found guilty of faking a sickness claim comes as news to many holidaymakers, the poll suggests.

A sentence of up to three years could be faced by anyone convicted of such an offence.

One high profile case involved a couple from Merseyside, who were imprisoned for faking a sickness claim on holiday.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's chief executive, said: "Unscrupulous claims management companies are encouraging people to make a false sickness claim which could land them with a large fine or even a prison sentence."

Among the new rules being introduced by the Ministry of Justice is the fixing of legal costs for those defending claims, so that the financial component can be better predicted.

More controls will also be introduced on the payouts themselves.

An MoJ spokesperson stated: "We are determined to tackle the holiday sickness claims culture which is damaging the honest majority.

"That is why we have set out plans to bring costs under control in these cases, reducing the cash incentives to bring claims against tour operators. We are aiming to bring these changes in as quickly as possible."


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